Last updated June 2, 2018
This page is organized from the most sophisticated (and most expensive) virtual reality (VR) headsets to the simplest and least expensive ones. At the bottom of the page, I will give my suggestion about which VR headset(s) schools should consider buying.
There are three main categories of VR headsets:
1. High-end systems with tethering, hand-controllers, etc.
2. Standalone headsets
3. Smartphone headsets.
There are two main PC-based headsets that are considered higher-end. These are the higher quality headsets and allow for a wider range of experiences.
1. The HTC Vive®(https://www.vive.com).
The Vive comes in two versions: the Vive Pro® ($799; https://www.vive.com/us/product/vive-pro) and the Vive Virtual Reality System® ($499; https://www.vive.com/us/product/vive-virtual-reality-system).
I (Rishi Mago) used the HTC Vive for the work I did during my internship at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (click HERE)
These “high-end” headsets have three main characteristics that give them the best capabilities.
1. They both have six degrees of freedom, which means that the orientation of the user’s head orientation is tracked as well as the user’s position.
2. Also, the user can walk around in a limited space while wearing the headset. The user is remains connected to the base of the system by wires (“tethering”).
3. Both these headsets also come with hand controllers that allow the user to interact with the virtual environment. For example, the user can draw or sculpt in 3D.
The drawbacks of these two headsets are:
1. Both of these are tethered, which means the headset is connected to a computer via wire.
2. A significant portion of a room needs to be dedicated to setting up the hardware, and
3) Cost. Using either of these headsets requires an expensive PC with special capabilities that will cost $1000 to $1500 on top of several hundred dollars for the headset.
The other type of headset is a standalone headset. The term “standalone” means that the headset does not require a computer to function–it stands alone.
But, still, these headsets have better performance than the smartphone headsets (see below) that rely on mobile devices to power them.
1. Google’s standalone headset is the Lenovo Mirage Solo with Daydream® (https://vr.google.com/daydream/standalonevr). This has six degrees of freedom as well. The user can walk around in the virtual space. It costs about $400. This headset seems to have the best of both worlds–getting positional tracking without having to be wired to an external setup and without the cost of the computer.
2. Oculus’ standalone headset is called Oculus Go® (https://www.oculus.com/go), which is a three degree of freedom standalone headset for $199 (32 GB) or $249 (64GB). You can’t walk around in space, but your head orientation is tracked and there is one hand controller that can be used to interact in the virtual space.
These headsets are inexpensive because they require the user to put a mobile phone in the headset in order to use it. The headset itself can, therefore, be very affordable.
Oculus has a smartphone headset called GearVR® (https://www.oculus.com/gear-vr) that works only with a Samsung Galaxy phone. But it has the advantage that it comes with a hand controller.
A nice smartphone headset from Google is Daydream View® (https://vr.google.com/daydream/smartphonevr)
Google also makes a very inexpensive headset called the Google Cardboard® (https://vr.google.com/cardboard) which costs only $15.
But, even more inexpensive smartphone headsets can be purchased for $7 or more (see https://vr.google.com/cardboard/get-cardboard).
VR headsets for schools
For schools, the key factor in deciding needs to be the budget. Schools should aim to have at least one headset for every two students. So, for a class of 25 students, 13 headsets are needed.
Overall, a standalone headset like the Oculus Go would probably be a good choice for schools.
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